Vee Cove, Isla Carmen to Isla Monserrate
Thursday morning……like no other one before. At 7.20 as the boat awakens, already the sky is an impossible blue and the sea turquoise clear. Gato Loco sits gently in the calm of the small V shaped Bay at the northern tip of Isla Carmen, surrounded by the chalky white limestone cliffs, pockmarked by thousands of caves etched into them by centuries of wind & waves. It is dead low tide & the huge caves at water level call out to be explored. Some have openings 50 ft across and go back deep into the cliffs. Bill does a dinghy reconnoitre & then we follow, slowly snorkeling our way into the cool, dark and rather scary shadows deep inside. As the water shallows, a sting ray stirs directly below us & we quickly beat a retreat, all of us silently thinking of Steve Irwin.
Then another hike ashore up the sanddunes into a dry ravine beyond, amazingly alive with desert plants of infinite variety. Cactus spring out of the most unlikely places – some stunted & barely alive, others huge and magnificent. We’re keen to see a rattle snake – certainly from our knowledge gleaned from the Saturday arvo (afternoon) flicks, it looks like rattler country. But nothing other than a few lizards and a lone startled rabbit which bounded away and disappeared into the low shrub.
At 11.30 we were on our way motoring out of the bay. But not 10 minutes later, the sea erupts with dolphins. And then more dolphins & more again. Surely thousands of them in frenzied feeding but breaking away every now & again to leap clear of the water or play chicken with our bows. Neely goes mad with excitement, rushing from one side of the boat to the other, as we do too. It is a visual feast that is just too exciting for words. Yesterday was the best day of our lives but already today has eclipsed it & it is not yet noon.
But it just keeps on getting better. Just a mile further on as we round Punta Perico, a spectacular promentary of broken cliffs & rocks, the silence is shattered by a cocophany of barking like a pack of wild dogs. Bill & Lowell, old Sea Dogs themselves, immediately identify the sound as Sea Lions. And suddenly we’re surrounded by them – huge blubbery monsters, some easily weighing 700 or 800 kilos. With Lowell clicking away & Neely in dog heaven for the second time in one day, we motor close to the shore to the rookery. Dozens sit up on shore, barking & grunting away – a few loll around in the water, their fins & tails stuck up into the air. With full bellies from this bountiful Sea of Cortez, they have plenty of time to laze around & have fun.
But wait, there’s more. Just as we and Neely get our hearts & emotions back under control after the Sea Lion excitement, the calm in front of us is shattered again. This time by hundreds of manta rays thrashing the water, dozens of them in unison leaping 10 feet in the air. This is too much for one day. Again we leave Gato Loco on autopilot & crowd the foredeck trying to take in this amazing spectacle. Neely is in sensory overload. They are not the huge rays like stealth bombers that we’ve seen in the western Pacific – these are 4 to 5 ft across but more than make up for size by their number and exuberant antics.
We move on & celebrate the morning with high-ball bloody marys and Frankie creates another of her amazing lunches. Everyone is in great high spirits barely believing that we could have witnessed such a rich display.
The wind picks up a little & we kill the motors and sail close hauled away Isla Carmen & towards our night anchorage, Isla Monserrate. An hour later, the wind dies completely & the water turns glassy.
And then the Sea of Cortez amazing water show starts anew. A huge manta ray, this time definitely worthy of the US Air Force, cruises past not 30 feet from the boat, it’s mouth & eyes clearly visable. Every now & again, needle fish around 2 ft long launch themselves from the water and scitter across the water on their tails. Some travel 100 metres obviously hoping that the distance is enough to live another day.
Just off our night’s anchorage, we pass some low lying rocks, obvious hang-outs for Sea Lions. They’re not home as we pass by but, by nightfall they’ve obviously returned, their unmistakable barks and honks continue on into the late night..
The north bay of Monserrate island is open to the north but perfect tonight in the dead calm. Ashore, we explore the limestone rock pools, alive with more marine life. Colorful crabs, the size of a hand scamper everywhere. They are amazingly agile and very fast. In one small pool, we watch a 4 ft long eel slither its way into what we assume is its ambush position. The crabs, though, seem to sense its presence and stay at a safe distance.
Richard for the Gato Loco Crew
Leg 1 April 11-19, Crew: Lowell, Bill, Dave – Puerto Penasco to San Carlos
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